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The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually increased its independence from Britain. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.


Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Natural Resources

bauxite, gypsum, limestone

Population - distribution

population density is high throughout, but increases in and around Kingston, Montego Bay, and Port Esquivel

English, English patois
KINGSTON (capital) 588,000 (2015)
Conventional long form
Conventional short form
Local long form
Local short form
parliamentary democracy (Parliament) under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm
Geographic coordinates
18 00 N, 76 48 W
Time difference
UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which accounts for more than 70% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Earnings from remittances and tourism each account for about 15% of GDP, while bauxite/alumina exports have declined to less than 5% of GDP.
External debt stocks
US$ 14,121,507,000
Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
Real Interest Rate
Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
Current Account Balance
US$ -103,005,162
Labor Force, Total
Employment in Agriculture
Employment in Industry
Employment in Services
Unemployment Rate
Imports of goods and services
US$ 6,628,280,668
Exports of goods and services
US$ 4,366,792,026
Total Merchandise Trade
FDI, net inflows
US$ 790,449,854
Commercial Service Exports
US$ 3,186,611,286
sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; shellfish
tourism, bauxite/alumina, agricultural-processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications
alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, apparel, mineral fuels
US 24.3%, Canada 16.4%, Russia 9.3%, Netherlands 8.8%, Iceland 7.1%, UK 6.5% (2015)
food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials
US 34.9%, China 12.9%, Trinidad and Tobago 11.9%, Venezuela 6.1% (2015)
Country Risk Rating
Political and economic uncertainties and an occasionally difficult business environment can affect corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is appreciable.
Business Climate Rating
The business environment is mediocre. The availability and the reliability of corporate financial information vary widely. Debt collection can sometimes be difficult. The institutional framework has a few troublesome weaknesses. Intercompany transactions run appreciable risks in the unstable, largely inefficient environments rated B.
  • Natural resources (bauxite, sugar, bananas, coffee) and tourism
  • Financial support from multilateral bodies
  • Substantial remittances from the diaspora
  • Stable democratic framework
  • Poorly diversified economy
  • Vulnerability to external shocks (climate, U.S. economy, commodities)
  • Very high public debt and debt interest payments, which significantly inhibits growth
  • High crime rate and poverty levels

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